I initially had him confused with his father, and then I thought, “Wait, he’s dead and has been for years. Why would I have him on the schedule?” Then I added the “junior,” and said, “Ohhhhhhhh.” Because, while I know him as an actor, his career as a director is far more impressive. In a, you know, television director way, where you’ll almost certainly never pay attention to their career unless they move on to movies, which is apparently in our society the only directing that counts. Yet if you watch the TV I do and have and remember, you’ve almost certainly seen his work.
Every once in a while, The Rockford Files played with giving Jim a foil who was also a private detective. Sometimes, they were good. Sometimes, they were bewildering. Sometimes, they were sneaky. And sometimes, it was Freddie Beamer. Freddie Beamer, who stole Jim’s identity and wrecked his brand-new car before Jim even drove it. Freddie Beamer, who read detective magazines and believed them. Freddie Beamer, who never did realize how crap he was at the actual job.
He’s frustrating as hell, and Whitmore is delightful in the role. He really sells how much you hate the character. He’s never had a truly breakout character; probably Freddie’s his most noteworthy. He had a really great moment going from an insistence that nobody actually died in childbirth to showing deep concern over his teenage daughter Scott Bakula, and it’s frankly hard to believe that’s the same actor. The roles are so different, and he’s incredible in both. Though you definitely hate Freddie more.
Of course, he directed himself on that Quantum Leap episode. He directed fourteen others, too, including some of the most noteworthy episodes of the series. (The Lee Harvey Oswald episodes. “A Leap For Lisa.” The finale.) He directed the first Rockford movie. He’s done a total of eighty episodes of assorted NCIS franchise shows. (And some Blue Bloods, in Shows People’s Parents Watch.) Okay, so his Star Trek credentials are limited to two episodes of Enterprise, but still.
Genuinely, his career is worth discussing, and he only got added to the schedule because of Freddie Beamer, because I’ll admit I don’t pay a ton of attention to television directors most of the time, either. But oh, goodness, did he direct some fine television. (And, you know, an episode of Models, Inc., but nobody’s perfect?) He’s still going, too, at the age of 74. Good on him; they should give him an episode of the new Quantum Leap, while they’re at it.